A Non-sense Novelette
The Chance Encounter
Historians have often pointed out that small events have so often altered the destinies of kings and nations. Nawab Sirajudulla’s downfall in the Battle of Palashi was triggered by the minor event of—what? I cannot recollect just now, must have been a rodent or something. But that is neither here nor there. What I mean to say is that Chandu’s meteoric rise to fame was destined by a chance encounter one stormy rain lashed-evening in this backstreet Chung Wah.
The little inn, an offshoot of the original popular Chung Wah, was not well known to the pub-hunting millions of Calcutta, but was frequently haunted by a large section of the Bengal literary fraternity. The evenings were crowded with small time journalists, aspiring photographers, while all of a sudden a publishing magnet would pop in with a more revealing poetess for a bite and maybe a business deal. Not infrequently would a legendary poet stagger in with his dhoti having lost its mooring and trailing at his back, sweeping the floor. In short, it had the correct ambience for all budding poets and writers.
On that fateful day Chandu’s group had planned an elaborate cocktail dinner in this joint to be hosted by Chandu on the auspicious occasion of his completion of one hundred and fifty days in Calcutta. They were halfway through their usual brain storming session when a large, rain-drenched portly man with shoe polish black hair and distinctive snow-white eyebrows sauntered in, settled down in a secluded corner with a glass and closed his eyes after a momentary glimpse at Chandu’s group.
The boisterous session subdued briefly with whispers of “Paharida, Paharida.” Chandu was electrified—so this was the legendary Paharida! One thing led to another, when one of the boldest of the group, no doubt boosted by the cocktail, dragged Chandu to the great man sitting alone with his small sips and introduced him for it was Chandu’s day of honour.
Chandu sat down in an empty chair starting hypnotized at the doyen of Bengal’s literary world dressed in a careless dhoti and kurta, eyelids drooping, heavy with poems, or drinks, or both.
As seconds ticked by, Chandu waited, fumbling to say something appropriate, when one of the eyelids opened a slit and the lips moved. “A poet—?”
Chandu hastily looked around to ascertain who the question was meant for and, finding none, was still trying to unstuck his tongue when the lips, without any supportive acts from the eyelids, drawled, “I asked are you a poet?”
“Who? Me? No!” Chandu was emphatic in his reply. Too emphatic to be precise. How was the sleeping Buddha to know that he had touched on a sensitive subject.
The slits reopened and gave Chandu a penetrating glance. “But your eyes have poems!”
That was all he said, while the eyelids drooped back and Paharida went back to his trance.
Simple words, “your eyes have poems,” and Chandu was thunderstruck. Not that he had closely looked at his own eyes before, but he had memories, of a long lost past, very personal, of which no outsider had access to.
There had been that brief period in his life, when he wrote poems for days on end, alone in misery and desolation. How was this great man to know that?
(To be continued…)